Growing up, we all learned variations of the same “correct” English. Our papers and essays have almost identical systems for capitalization, punctuation, grammar, etc. So why don’t we see this across the internet?
Let’s take a look at the language of tumbr. Text posts do sometimes have the “correct” structure, but more often then not, some translating is required. Most the time you’ll see something more like this:
“guys i got a neW PUPPER IM SO EXCITED!! OMG CRYIII NG SOOIOO HARD!!!”
This is not correct English if you hadn’t noticed. But this is closer to the norm on tumblr – why? As we have discussed in class, people have been trying to figure out ways to better incorporate visual cues to better convey their tone. Some people do this with emoji’s, but others do that by making deliberate “mistakes”. We can tell by the sudden capitalization that the author is incredibly animated and whatever they are about to say should make us feel something – anger, excitement, happiness. Then there are the spelling mistakes and the extra space that show us that they are so excited they no longer care about going back to edit; they have something to tell us and they are telling us right now. And finally let’s look at “pupper”. This simply means puppy, so why not use that instead? On tumblr – also reddit and others – pupper has emerged as a way to better express the shear puppyness of the puppy. Imagine a little dog with big paws and floppy ears who is never anything but excited, this is a pupper.
This is just a tiny bit of text, and we are able to tell this much about the author’s feelings and situation. What happens when we have images or videos?
This is just a gif of Shakira not hitting the button to turn her chair around on The Voice, but it shows so much more emotion than that. “When an amazing post has a spelling error in the totle.” Or in other words, I thought I was interested, but no. I was wrong. I was very wrong. I have seen many people use this gif to express their frustration because the thing they thought they liked/wanted turned out to be nothing like what they expected.
This is how we communicate with each other online. It is not just:
Person 1: Hello, how are you?
Person 2: I’m quite fine. Would you be interested in getting coffee soon?
We have real conversations full of emotion and life. Basic English isn’t enough for us anymore, and while most of the major shifts from plain text communication are localized to specific platforms, it won’t stay that way. Humphreys may have been talking about the spread of memes when she spoke about the spreadability on content, but it applies to our language as well.
How many times have you heard “I can’t even!” in the hallways? That started as a reaction to very specific situations on the internet, but now it is part of the vernacular. Our spoken language is evolving to match our changes to our written communication.
Humphreys, Ashlee. “Chapter 12: Cultural Representations and Practices.” Social Media: Enduring Principles. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2016. 215-233. Print.
Image of tumblr login page: screen grab of tumblr.com
gif of Shakira: http://pandawhale.com/post/40686/shakira-pressing-the-red-button-on-the-voice-gif
gif of Tyler Oakley: http://wifflegif.com/gifs/375074-tyler-oakley-i-cant-even-gif